Sometimes the most scurvy and fearsome of Pirates, even after being sent to Davy Jones' locker, just don't stay in their watery graves. Instead, they continue to terrorize the seas as fearsome undead scourges, complete with a Ghost Ship crewed by the damned. Despite the name, the Ghost Pirate trope includes all forms of undead pirates, including zombie or skeletal variants.
Occasionally, their sojourn as the living dead is due to a terrible curse that keeps them sailing (which may or may not involve voodoo). Other times, they're just too badass to stay in hell.
Legends of ghost ships and ghost pirates alike may derive from the tale of the Flying Dutchman, a phantom ship reportedly doomed to sail the oceans for eternity.
Of course, not all Ghost Ships have ghost pirates. This is a common form of Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
While she dose not look the part Captain Liliana from Queen's Blade Rebellion is an Undead Prirate Captain and her pirate crew are walking skeletons that are the only ones that look the part.
Brook from One Piece. Surprisingly for this trope, he's a good guy!
One Piece also has Gecko Moria's crew, of which only four members are alive, the rest being zombies.
Subverted with Vander Decken, who sails on the infamous underwater ship Flying Dutchman like his real-life counterpart and is believed to be a ghost pirate on a cursed ship, but actually is just a regular fishman pirate. Rather than being the ghost of the infamous Vander Decken, the one the Straw Hats encounter is actually his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson Vander Decken IX. Not that it makes him more of a nice guy.
At least two ghost pirates have appeared in The DCU, both of them historical characters that used to have their own series. The Black Pirate appeared as a ghost in Starman and Captain Fear in the Dr. Thirteen mini-series.
Bizarrely, Captain Fear might be able to die again, implying that there are tiers for this sort of thing.
"Skull and Crossbones" segment from Campfire Tales (1991) tells a tale of two pirates who wash ashore of an island with cursed Pirate Booty. Anyone who tries to take the treasure and/or leave the island has to face the reanimated corpses of the other pirates who got stuck there.
William Hope Hodgson wrote 'The Ghost Pirates' which you might think you would a trope maker, but by "ghost" he meant bizarre shadow people rising out of the ocean and by "pirate" he meant they take over and sink the ship it's set on
Jason's attempt to invoke this trope in FoxTrot provides the page quote.
Destroy The Godmodder had ghost space pirates that deserve a mention for surviving being the only things for the godmodder to target multiple turns in a row. They also had a massive ship that came back to life with them, and they even made a bunker when THAT got shot down.
The Black Freighter of 7th Sea draws its undead crew from those who died at sea.
The Pirates of the Cursed Seas set has an entire faction devoted to these.
The standalone Games Workshop game Dreadfleet has one of these- Vangheist, captain of the Shadewraith.
And if you take the broader "any undead pirate" definition, the entire Dreadfleet is crewed and captained by them! Count Noctilus is a vampire pirate, King Amanhotep is a mummy pirate, Skretch Half-Dead is a zombie Skaven pirate and Tordrek Hackhart is a cyborg Chaos Dwarf pirate who is no longer truly alive.
Rattle me Bones, a game where you must carefully remove items from a pirate's skeleton. If you lack dexterity, the skeleton will RATTLE AND SHAKE!
In the Ravenloft campaign, there's Captain Pieter van Riese, Darklord of the Sea of Sorrows. (Well, technically he was a greedy merchant when he was alive, not a pirate, but he haunts the sea on a Ghost Ship and he was crueler than even most pirates, so he probably qualifies.)
Late in Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush becomes a ghost pirate himself after being slain by LeChuck, but later finds a way to repossess his own body, and he's returned to normal at the end of the final chapter.
Cervantes from the Soul Calibur series is a zombie/ghost pirate thanks to the power of the evil sword Soul Edge.
In one point in Arcanum, you need to get a ship. There are three ways to do this, and one is by laying your hands on a ghost ship belonging to a cursed undead pirate.
The main antagonists of Alone in the Dark 2 were a band of zombified pirates kept "alive" though voodoo.
The Wario Land series has about one per game, with one unnamed boss in the third game, Captain Coin in the fourth game and the boss Captain Skull in Wario World being ghost pirates. Or pirate ghosts. Or both.
Dubloon features both friendly ghost pirates and unfriendly zombie-pirates.
The second Ben Jordan game has a Ghost Ship which is still haunted by its captain, determined to protect his treasure.
Vega Strike flavour text on Neural Computer (cargo) says that one of their functions is maintaining a viable imitation while the pilot's brain is blacked out in a maneuver... which, since the computer doesn't always die with the pilot, "explain the reports of zombie mercenaries".
Spinal of Killer Instinct fame is a skeletal example. His stage's background might apply as well: it's a galley full of skeleton rowers.
The "Ghost Ship" level of the original MediEvil had you fighting your way through skeleton pirates to take over their ship. In the Updated Re-release for PSP, the level is preceded with a harbour filled with acrobatic skeleton pirates.
In Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull, the player character is summoned to the Louisiana bayou by a woman whose husband has gone missing. Their young daughter maintains that a ghost pirate was responsible for his abduction.
In Dota 2, Kunkka's backstory hints that he might have been killed in the crash that destroyed his ship. His appearance is perfectly human though.
In Thief II, Garrett can possibly encounter one while exploring the wreck of his ship. Stealing the pirate's loot causes him to appear as a Haunt, and Garrett then has to sneak by him in order to get away and keep the treasure.
In Path of Exile, ghostly pirates and simply sailors comprise the bulk of the enemies encountered in the ship graveyard towards the end of Act I. One even serves as a treacherousQuest Giver!
Played with in "The Darkest Fathoms", the first episode of Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures. There's a pirate and his crew who dress like their counterparts from the age of sails, but it's also heavily implied that the ghost pirates they pretend to be are real as well.
A group of ghost pirates appeared in one episode of The Pirates of Dark Water. They tried to capture Ioz and turn him into one of them. Since the only thing that could harm a ghost was another ghost, Ren had to have Tula use her powers to separate his spirit from his body so he could go fight the ghost pirates and save Ioz.
The Real Ghostbusters had to deal with a crew of these who invaded New York to retrieve their buried treasure after it was uncovered and put on display in a local museum.